WEST LIBERTY - Hoping to get a little momentum going heading into class 3A regional action this week, the Anamosa volleyball team got a taste of tournament pressure taking past at the River Valley Conference event in West Liberty Tuesday, Oct. 15.
And pressure is what the Raiders faced all night long, as they played three matches in the league’s pool play round opening against Bellevue.
“We’d played Bellevue twice already this year and had beaten them both times,” said Anamosa volleyball coach Caitlin McVay, as her team was edged in a tight 17-21, 19-21 final at the hands of the Comets.
“You know what they say, it’s always tough beating a good team three times, and we weren’t quite able to do that in this case, though we sure had our chances.”
Anamosa (16-12) struggled to get much offense going against Bellevue tallying just 15 kills in the two-set match with Olivia Nebergall, Maggie McQuillen and Gabby Gadient leading the way with three kills each. Delaney Frater and Jaiden Neuhaus added two kills each to the effort.
“Overall, we just did not play well,” McVay said. “Early on we were able to get Bellevue out of system, but they were able to adjust better than us.”
Gadient also added seven assists for the Raider offense while Kylie Chapman set five more while also going 9-of-10 serving. Gadient recorded all three of Anamosa’s service aces in the match as well. Grace Lubben played the back row very well coming up with 14 digs.
“After the first set our nerves settled down, but it came just a little too late for us to be able to get the win. In these tournaments it’s best 2-of-3, and if you don’t come out ready to go, you can fall behind pretty quick. This was one of those cases for us.”
Anamosa rebounded with a clutch 21-14, 17-21, 15-11 triumph over Mid-Prairie in the second match of the night.
“It’s tough coming right back after losing a match we knew we could have and should have won, but the girls did a nice of it against Mid-Prairie,” McVay said. “Abby Fairbanks had a great match and really stepped up right when we needed it and Grace did a nice job for us on defense, too.”
Fairbanks was sensational leading the Raider offense with eight kills on just 16 attacks and also added three blocks for the Anamosa defense.
“In that first set Abby was on fire,” McVay said. “We gave Mid-Prairie a lot of different looks and just kept on attacking from every angle. The girls were really into it.”
Gadient was also busy coming through with six kills while also setting four assists and adding a block. Frater, McQuillen and Nebergall all chipped in with four kills while McQuillen added nine digs as well.
Anamosa serving was also strong as the team connected on 93-percent of them in the match with three going for aces (Chapman, Lubben and McQuillen).
Chapman paced the offense with 16 assists against the Golden Hawks.
The win vaulted the Raiders into their most challenging match of the tournament, against class 3A second-ranked West Liberty, in the third and final contest of the evening.
“That first set against West Liberty was one of our best games of the year,” said McVay, as her team gave the talented Comets all they could ask for before dropping an 18-21, 11-21 decision.
“We led most of the first set and really had them frustrated. I think we surprised them a little bit with exactly how good we really were and our girls were loving every second of West Liberty starting to argue with each other and just got really out of sync. Unfortunately, it didn’t last.
Six different Raiders ripped kills in the match led by five from McQuillen who also tallied seven digs.
Nebergall and Fairbanks chipped in with four kills each while Chapman set 10 assists and was 9-of-9 serving with one of the team’s two total aces.
Anamosa advanced to River Valley Conference tournament consolation bracket play at Durant Thursday, Oct. 17, and in the opener against Iowa City Regina, saw their run come to a one-and-done close with a tough 14-21, 21-19, 9-15 defeat.
“Not the performance we were hoping for,” McVay said. “In the first set we struggled to get much of anything going collectively, and overall we seemed to be a step slow all night.
“In the second set we missed eight serves and still somehow found a way to win, but Regina wasn’t going to let us play poorly and beat them again in the third set.”
McQuillen’s six kills powered the Raider offense while Fairbanks and Gadient came through with five more each. Grace Steffensmeier helped out the Anamosa offense with four kills on just seven attacks while Chapman (12) and Gadient (11) combined to set all 23 of the team’s assists.
“The girls did the best they could to stay positive even with us struggling,” McVay said. “But we just couldn’t get the ball to do what we wanted all match long. Frustrating way to the end tournament we had high hopes for.”